What is it about middle grade mysteries that is so enduring? Whether you were a devoted Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys fan, snuck around New York City with Harriet the Spy, or are exploring the genre for the first time with authors like Varian Johnson and Chris Grabenstein, there’s something for everyone in this genre. The great thing about middle grade mysteries is that they allow readers of all ages to put their puzzle solving skills to work, while also dialing back the gore and scares that are often hallmarks of mysteries for older readers. Populated with fun characters, unique settings, and fast placed plots, the book below are all great choices for this Read Harder Challenge. To start, I’ve listed a couple enduring classics of the genre before moving on to more current works.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
It’s winter at the Greenglass House, a smuggler’s inn, and Milo, the innkeeper’s adopted son, is looking forward to the slow season. However, the guest bell soon starts ringing and doesn’t stop. As the inn fills up with a series of guests, each of whom has a story to tell and suspicions to arouse, objects begin to go missing and the secrets of Greenglass House begin to surface. This book continues to be a popular checkout in our library for both middle graders reading it for the first time and young adults eager to reread a book they love.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
One of my favorite books from my childhood, this is the story of Claudia and her little brother Jamie who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Claudia’s goal is to shake things up a little and make her family appreciate her more at home, but she and Jamie stumble upon the mystery of whether or not an angel statue donated to the museum was sculpted by Michealangelo.
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
Mixing mystery and history, The Parker Inheritance opens when Candice, a middle school girl in South Carolina, opens a letter that was addressed to her grandmother that describes an injustice, a puzzle, and the promise of a fortune for anyone who can figure it out. Teaming up with her neighbor Brandon, Candice will dive into the history of Lambert, South Carolina, uncovering the pains and triumphs of the past and trying to find the treasure before their summer break is finished.
High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson
Nik and Norva are the best sleauths their building, known as The Tri, has to offer. But their super sleuthing skills are put to the test when they go from solving small problems to trying to find out how their art teacher’s body ended up outside the building. Can they wrap up the case in time to go back to school?
Chirp by Kate Messner
Beloved middle grade author Kate Messner takes on the mystery genre in this heartwarming story. It’s the summer after seventh grade, and Mia is unpacking boxes in her family’s new home in Vermont, trying to leave behind secrets from her old life. On top of the move, she’s got to deal with a broken arm, and how someone might be trying to sabotage her Grandma’s cricket farm, and making friends in this adventurous story that combines mysteries and middle school friendship woes.
Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley, Illustrated by Xavier Bonet
When JJ Jacobson and his mom get an invitation to spend the weekend at an all-inclusive hotel, JJ is thrilled. The Barclay Hotel is the most haunted spot in town and JJ is ready for a spooky weekend of ghost hunting mixed with relaxation. He never expected the owner of the hotel to turn up dead, or for his mother to be the main suspect in the murder. To clear her name, JJ will have to team up with his new friends Penny and Emma, as well as the hotel’s ghosts, and find out who the real culprit is.
The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer
Enola Holmes, younger sister of the famous Sherlock, discovers on her fourteenth birthday that her mother has disappeared. Determined to find out where she’s gone, Enola finds herself drawn into the kidnapping case of the young Marquess of Basilwether and soon she’s in over her head and being chased by both devious villians and her older brother. Will she be able to rescue the marquess and track down her mother before the elder Holmes can catch up with her?
Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett
Paul Marconi and his best friend are founding members of The One and Onlys detective club, dedicated to solving mysteries in their sleepy, little town of Bellwood. The only problem is, Bellwood is too boring to have many mysteries that need solving…until hundreds of rubber ducks appear on Mr. Babbage’s lawn without an explanation. Why are the ducks there? Who left them? And can Paul sort this out before the annual Bellwood Bratwurst Bonanza?
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles, Illustrated by Dapo Adeola
When a mysterious man and his time freezing camera show up in Otto and Sheed’s Virginia town, the two super sleuths will have their skills put to the test. Not only are they not sure where the man came from, they’ve also never met the strange creatures that start to appear to help them prevent him from stopping time forever. Another great summer break mystery that’s the first in a series.
The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery by Chris Grabenstein
Zack, his dad, and his new stepmom have just moved back into in Zack’s dad’s childhood home. The house seems nice at first, but then the family finds out it has a dark history. Forty years before, a killer caused an accident and the loss of forty lives at a crossroads nearby, sending his own evil spirit into a nearby tree. When lightening strikes the tree, the killer’s spirit returns and decides to try and make Zack his next victim.
Whether you go creepy, realisitc, or historic, I hope you enjoy these stories and perhaps share them with the middle grade mystery lovers in your life. If you’re looking for more great middle grade mysteries, check out these twelve books like Enola Holmes and ten of the best books about kid detectives.